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Wind Town 5.3

            In that eerie silence, the wheezing breaths grew harsher and harsher. Matt was sure that Dad would stop any minute, but he pushed on until his swings became clumsy and unsteady. Matt heard his mom’s gasp when a stumble brought the blades swinging back towards his leg. Dad pulled it back and rested the scythe on the ground. Matt started forward, but after a second, Dad lifted it again and almost desperately swept it across two more sections before dropping it and half-collapsing, bent over coughing with his elbows on his knees.
            “Sarah, go get a pail of water and a cup,” Mom said softly.
            Wide-eyed, Sarah nodded and sprinted back across the fields towards the yard. Matt took one look at Dad’s red face, grabbed the scythe, and pulled it away in case Dad keeled over onto it.
            “It’s not as easy as it was when I was fifteen,” Dad gasped.
            “You were a lot younger when you were fifteen,” Mom said exasperatedly, “and you worked in the fields every day. Without a tractor.”
            “I know, I know.” He waved a hand at her and pushed to standing with a groan. “But it needs done.” He coughed and wiped chaff off his face. “I even forgot the handkerchief. Put one over your face before you start the next section, Matt.” He coughed again.
            Scythe in hand, Matt turned. The field of wheat seemed to go on forever. The tiny row that his dad had worked so hard to cut wasn’t even… he struggled to guess what fraction of the field. It was about half the width. That had to be less than a tenth of the whole field. No, less than a twentieth. A lot less. And Dad could barely stand. Matt looked from the field to the tool: a bit of wood and metal. It was impossible. Helplessly, he looked up at his parents.
            “How…” One glance at their faces froze the words on his lips. They knew. They’d known before they even started. But Dad had still… Swallowing, Matt took a deep breath, dug in his pocket for a kerchief, and tied it around his face. “Like this?”

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